This is a blog about friendship and gratitude, a few weeks ago I went to visit a friend who I used to work with over 10 years ago.  Just over 6 weeks ago as I was scrolling through my mobile phone, I came across a telephone number of a lady I used to work with.  Without hesitation I picked up the phone and reached out to her, despite having not spoken to her for over 8 years.  I wanted to contact her because last year she posted something on Facebook last year that had changed her life forever about a health condition she had been diagnosed with and I wanted to reach out to her.

When I called her, she explained that she had sadly been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and ALS, and she explained that this life-changing condition had begun to change her life dramatically already. Her speech was slurred, and she spoke very slowly but, she was still positive, funny and witty. I explained I just wanted to check in with her to see how he was, she got upset and she didn’t know but, so did I.  She asked me if I’d visit her and of course I obliged, I couldn’t wait to see her.  For confidentiality reasons I’m not going to share her name in this blogpost but, for those of us who worked together, you’ll know exactly whom I’m talking about.  For the purposes of this blog I’ll call her Claire.

When I arrived, she greeted me along the path with a huge smile, she walked and talked slowly and she’d had all her hair cut and dyed blonde but, she suited it.  Within the first few minutes I remembered just how much Claire was such a breath of fresh air, she’d always had a brilliant sense of humour that made everyone laugh, she didn’t take life or herself too seriously and she was always positive.  She always had a saying about life, she said, ‘Life is about either sinking or swimming’ and when Claire when diagnosed with MND and ALS she always said I’ll deal with it and I’ll be positive because I’ve always been a swimmer.  Honestly, when she told me this I filled up and had so much admiration for her, despite all of this she was still so positive.

Claire explained that at the time she got diagnosed she was already caring for her husband who was suffering with prostate cancer himself, I didn’t know any of this as I hadn’t spoken to her for so long but, I couldn’t believe what she was telling me it was so tragic.   She explained her husband was due to donate a kidney to his disabled sister but, during the tests they discovered he had prostate cancer and he was unable to donate and as a result, his sister sadly died.  As she recited the story it made me so sad to hear that they had experienced all of this, it’s hard enough to be caring for a disabled loved one but, then to experience cancer and then lose a sibling, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  

Claire explained during the time her husband was coming to terms with the diagnosis of prostate cancer Claire was having to work additional hours as work was extremely busy. She was working additional hours, staying late and trying to care for her husband and be there for support for him too.  She was exhausted and in April last year, she explained she had a dizzy spell at home as a result of working too hard.  She arrived home from work late and had a dizzy spell at the top of the stairs and fell down 6 steps.  Her husband explained when he found her, her body was twisted, her bones broken, she hit her head and was in desperate need of the emergency services.

Due to the nature of her injuries she had to get a specialist paramedic team to attend to her at the house and then she passed out with the pain and woke up in hospital. It was only then that she realised the extent of her injuries, she woke up and found out that she would be in a back brace for 4 months.  As if things weren’t bad enough, she then went onto have further tests and her diagnosis of MND and ALS became clear. She was devastated.

During my visit she told me stories of how difficult it’s become since her diagnosis for her to climb the stairs and how painful it is for her to do some of the simplest tasks.  She explained how she felt imprisoned in her home that she shares with her family and husband and it was clear to see that she now struggles with even the most basic of tasks.  She can no longer use her hands, she can’t drink from a mug and may need a feeding peg fitting soon, the fall really did escalate things.  She explained she should have seen the signs but, didn’t and now she looks back she can see that things weren’t right for a long while. 

Whilst we chatted, she explained that she was waiting for her case worker to visit her later that day.  The case worker was coming to discuss house renovations to sort out the house as she will soon no longer be able to climb the stairs and as a result of this, she needs a downstairs bedroom and bathroom. She also requires all of the doors widening for her wheelchair and they will have to build on the back of her house to accommodate all of this.  This was something I hadn’t even considered and it just didn’t seem fair that she’d worked her whole life and now when she needed the government’s support with house renovations she was having to wait for it as there were huge delays.

Claire has experienced so much hardship and turmoil yet despite this during my visit she remained so positive and happy.  She made jokes and made funny remarks about having to stay at home with her hubby permanently.  She said he has left work now to care for her now, the roles were reversed but, she said they do make each other laugh and that’s what keep them sane. It was so heartful and emotional being there with them both but, it made me realise how grateful she still was.  The words and phrases she used throughout our conversation include phrases like, ‘You’ve got to remain positive, haven’t you?!’ and, ‘I’ve got to live in hope that they find a cure through clinical trials.’ It was clear to see she was still an optimistic person, and this was amazing to see.

I noticed she had a sign up in her lounge which read, ‘Always believe something wonderful is about to happen,’ and this just captured her whole outlook about life.  I remain hopeful for her and her family that through clinical trials they will find a cure for her.  The whole visit was so lovely yet, heart-breaking all at the same time.  It struck me how positive she was and I asked her if she would like to do anything before things progress as I’d like to help her if I could and the things she came up with amazed me.  She explained she loved visiting the local beach and enjoyed having fish and chips, she enjoyed visiting the local park and having a walk around there.  She told me stories of how her and her husband would sometimes visit the local Italian for food and drinks, and she appeared so happy when she talked about this, it was heart-warming to hear.

It reminded me that often we strive for the most amazing adventures in life when really, it’s the simplest things in life that provide us with the most pleasure. My friend is truly amazing, and we vowed to see each other every month and when she can, we will visit the local Italian and have a few drinks.  We even joked about me taking her for a little joyride in her new wheelchair however, for now with Covid 19, these visits are on hold for now, but, only for the time being.

Visiting Claire reminded me that it truly doesn’t matter how long you haven’t spoken to anyone for, you should always reach to one another.  It was another reminder that life is about friendship, support, love and kindness and it reminded me to never take for granted the simple things in life as they can often bring us the most pleasure.

Personal Message to my special friend

Reconnecting with you has been amazing, I want to tell you to never change despite what life throws at you.  Always remain positive, hopeful and happy and in your words, ‘Always believe something wonderful is going to happen.’

What an amazing way to live – always in hope, what other option is there.

Kelly x